Dynasty Fantasy Baseball: Pitching Prospects on the Rise
When it comes to prospects, the pitching landscape often can be a dark and confusing place. It’s like trying to drive a car in thick fog down a curvy road. You think you can navigate it just fine and then you’re scraping off the guard rail. That car in the guard rail this season is Forrest Whitley. The once fine-tuned machine has experienced some issues under the hood and is now in the shop after not passing state inspection. At the same time, Brent Honeywell is totally broken down on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck. You think you have pitching prospects like Whitley and Honeywell figured out, but then everything changes. Such is the nature of dynasty fantasy baseball.
Not all is bad though. Take the below pitching prospects for example. Each pitcher has raised their stock over the first two months of the season. Some came out of nowhere while others are ascending to the elite ranks of pitching prospects. These are some of the names I’d be trying to acquire wherever I could in dynasty leagues due to their rising stock. Grabbing some of these arms could continue to pay big dividends as they continue to ascend up the pitching ranks.
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Dynasty Fantasy Baseball: Pitching Prospects on the Rise
Matt Manning, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Let’s start with the big dog on this list. Matt Manning is a stud pitcher and has ascended to the elite ranks this season. Coming into 2019, Manning was my 14th ranked pitching prospect, sandwiched between Mike Soroka and Nate Pearson. Two months into the season and he’s now cracked my top-5, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone that wanted to put him as high as 3rd behind MacKenzie Gore and his current Erie SeaWolves teammate, Casey Mize.
In the past, Manning got by with a dominant fastball/curveball combination. Those two pitches are easily plus offerings, but two pitches can only do so much. It’s been the development of his changeup this season that has really cause Manning to ascend the elite ranks and cement his top-of-the-rotation upside. As you can see below, Manning still needs to work on commanding the pitch better, but the fade and drop he gets on the pitch is phenomenal.
That changeup was very effective in the start I attended a few weeks back when he was commanding the pitch, which has been the case throughout the 2019 season. If Manning can continue to finetune the offering, as well as his overall command, he very well could be an ace for a long time in the Majors. Which is scary for the NL Central as he’ll likely be Detroit’s #2 behind Casey Mize.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, San Diego Padres
The amount of high-end pitching talent in this San Diego system is ridiculous. The Padres already called up Chris Paddack on opening day, have one of the top-5 pitching prospects in the minors in MacKenzie Gore, and still have so much behind him like Luis Patino, Michel Baez, and this man, Ryan Weathers. San Diego drafted Weathers 7th overall last June and quickly promoted him to the Single-A Midwest for the final three starts of the season after just four starts in the Arizona Rookie League. Weathers returned to the Midwest League this season, posting a 3.25 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and 9.8 K/9 across 36 innings so far.
When it came to pitching prospects in the 2018 draft, Weathers wasn’t considered one of the elite bunch, even though he was the 2nd arm taken behind Casey Mize. One of the reasons for his success this season has been the incorporation of a slider which Lance Brozdowski outlined back in April. The pitch has been a huge boon to his arsenal and has helped Weather’s strikeout rate rise from 21.7% in 2018 to 28.3% this season. As Weathers is only 19 for several more months, it’s fair to project a tad more velocity in the coming years from his current 89-94 mph range too.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) April 10, 2019
When his development is all said and done, we could be looking at a southpaw with four above-average offerings and plus command as well. While he might not have the gleam of a Paddack, Gore, or Patino, Weathers has solid upside with a fairly high floor as well making him a pitching prospect squarely on the rise.
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
The next pitcher drafted after Weathers, that actually signed, was Grayson Rodriguez who has done nothing but dominate in the minors. Through his first 17 starts and one relief appearance, G-Rod has a 2.27 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9 and 11.5 K/9 between the Gulf Coast League last season and South Atlantic League this season. While I was fairly high on Rodriguez after the draft, his dominance this season as a 19-year-old prep arm in the SALLY, 12 months removed from pitching in high school has truly impressed me.
You can attest Rodriguez’s dominance to his dynamite four-pitch arsenal. He’ll throw in the low to mid-90’s on his heater with riding life and sink from his high 3/4 arm slot. Offsetting the heater is a plus slider, above-average to plus changeup, and a serviceable curveball. As with Weathers, it wouldn’t shock me if Rodriguez added some velocity over the next year or two and was sitting in the mid-90’s consistently by the time he makes it up to Baltimore.
Speaking of Baltimore, they haven’t had the best track record for developing pitchers lately, but really have a gem to work with here. Rodriguez possesses the upside of a workhorse #2 starter that can exceed both 200 innings pitched and 200 strikeouts annually. Don’t screw this one up Baltimore. I beg you.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Seattle Mariners
If you think Grayson Rodriguez has been impressive, take a look at what Logan Gilbert has been doing in the Carolina League and South Atlantic League this season. In 11 combined starts, Gilbert has a 2.01 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and 12.7 K/9 in 53.2 IP. Not too shabby for his first taste of professional ball.
The hype on Gilbert coming out of the 2018 draft felt similar to the hype surrounding another Mariners draft pick, Kyle Lewis, back in 2016. Everyone loved the all-around skill set with each, but questions swirled around whether each could translate their success to the Majors coming out of smaller schools. Gilbert has quickly squashed those concerns, proving that he is one of the top rising pitching prospects in the game.
This isn’t just a college arm dominating the low minors either. Gilbert has a dynamic four-pitch arsenal with the potential for four plus pitches in his fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. Every time I watch Gilbert pitch, the more impressed I am with his stuff. With a big fastball with riding life, solid command, and these type of secondaries, Gilbert has the potential to rise quickly through the Mariners system and develop into one of the 10 best pitching prospects in the game within the next 12-18 months.
Zac Gallen, RHP, Miami Marlins
Of course Zac Gallen was going to make this list. What he’s done this season in the hitters-haven Pacific Coast League is nothing short of spectacular. Especially since the league has been even fore hitter-friendly than usual with the MLB baseballs they use now. A total of six qualified starting pitchers have an ERA under four. That’s it. Two of those six just barely squeak in under four and 2nd place Hector Noesi and his 2.64 ERA are a full run above Gallen’s stellar 1.57 mark.
Furthermore, only one pitcher has a sub-1.00 WHIP. Any guesses who that might be? Not only is he the only pitcher with a sub-1.00 ERA, but Gallen’s 0.70 WHIP is also head, shoulders, knees, and toes better than the 2nd place 1.02 mark and a full 0.50 ahead of the 3rd place 1.20. This just hammers home just how great Gallen has been in an environment where most pitchers are seeing a bloated ERA/WHIP. He also leads the league in innings, strikeouts (by a mile), and basically every other stat you could possibly think of.
Even with how much I was just pumping Gallen up, we need to pump the brakes a little bit. Gallen is not an elite pitching prospect with the same upside as Matt Manning, Jesus Luzardo, etc. He just doesn’t have the same arsenal as those guys. Yes, what he has been doing this season is amazing on many levels, but the upside is more of a strong #3 starter than future ace. Still, Gallen is firmly on the rise in dynasty leagues after entering the season well down most prospect rankings. He might not be a future ace, but his plus command of four above-average offerings gives him a very high floor to go along with that #3 SP upside.
Anthony Kay, LHP, New York Mets
It took longer than expected but the Mets are finally beginning to see the pitcher they expected to see after taking Anthony Kay with the 31st overall pick back in the 2016 amateur draft. Kay has a solid alibi for the missed time though. A few months after being drafted, Kay underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2017 season. After returning in 2018, he was a little rusty, but still pitched to a respectable 4.26 ERA with a strikeout per inning.
Shaking off the rust after Tommy John surgery, or any extended layoff isn’t out of the norm and Kay is now getting back to the pitcher the Mets coveted out of the University of Connecticut. Through his first 12 starts this season in the Double-A Eastern League, Kay has dazzled to the tune of a 1.49 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s cut his H/9 from 9.1 in 2018 to 5.2 this season.
Kay will never be a pitcher that dominates with plus pitches, but the spin rates he gets on both his low-90’s fastball and low-80’s curveball are exceptional and really increase the effectiveness of each offering. Add in his above-average changeup and that gives Kay three above-average or better pitches with solid enough command over his entire arsenal. Kay is back on track as a high-floor mid-rotation arm and is trending up in dynasty leagues. And since he doesn’t have the big prospect name, you can likely acquire Kay for a reasonable price.
Shane Baz, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Can we just appreciate the ridiculous return package the Rays got for Chris Archer for a second? Not only did the Rays acquire Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, both of whom have excelled in the Majors this season, they also got Shane Baz as well. If this trade went down today in a dynasty league, it would get vetoed and ridiculed by the entire league.
New Rays RHP Shane Baz (Chris Archer trade w/PIT) shows all three pitches in a row to get Red Sox LF Trey Ball looking: 95 mph heater, changeup down, backdoor cutter/slider pic.twitter.com/kspuhs4Cii
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) September 28, 2018
While Baz was the third piece of the deal, his upside should have Rays fans and his dynasty owners incredibly excited. Baz has a plethora of pitches that are either already plus or flash plus potential. He’ll sit in the low to mid 90’s with his fastball with riding life and mixes in a bunch of sharp secondaries. The best of the bunch is his low to mid-80s slider that he’ll turn into more of a high-80’s cutter at times. Both the curve and changeup flash plus as well, giving Baz a truly dynamic arsenal.
If Baz can continue improving his command and control, the upside here is incredibly high. Calling Baz a prospect on the rise after just 25 innings this season might seem a tad premature, but with his upside, it’s better to buy in sooner rather than later.
Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Most of the attention goes to Brady Singer, but Daniel Lynch is right there with him in my eyes. Lynch is the more polished of the two and some, myself included, might say that he has the higher floor while nearly matching Singer’s upside. He’ll sit in the low to mid-90’s with his fastball and might even be able to add a tick or two to his velocity if Lynch can add some strength to his slight 6’6 frame. He’s already added a little velocity since his days at the University of Virginia after the Royals got a a hold of him and had him work on his fastball following a collegiate career that saw him heavily rely on his secondaries.
Even if he doesn’t, the arsenal is still impressive with the plus fastball and three secondary offerings that all have above-average to plus potential. Lynch has done nothing but impress since being drafted with a career 2.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and 9.5 K/9. If he can continue to command his arsenal like he has and limit the free passes, Lynch has the upside of a #2 starter.
Jaseel De La Cruz, RHP, Atlanta Braves
A few weeks back, I went over Jaseel De La Cruz after his no-hitter and subsequent promotion to Double-A. His first few starts at the new level haven’t been as strong as he was in Single-A, but the overall arsenal De La Cruz possesses has him rising up the pitching prospect ranks. Here’s part of my blurb about him from three weeks ago:
“The Braves signed De La Cruz back in 2015 and originally used him mostly as a reliever with 22 of his first 25 appearances coming out of the pen. The transition to the rotation happened in 2017 and JDLC has shown steady improvement ever since, especially with his secondary offerings. De La Cruz sits in the mid-90’s with riding life on his fastball and will offset that with a plus, sharp slider with two-plane break, and an improving changeup that has flashed above-average potential. Command has always been an issue for De La Cruz throughout his minor league career, but he’s shown better command and control this season so far.
If he can continue to make strides there and improve his changeup, there’s some high strikeout mid-rotation upside here with De La Cruz. He’s a name to add now while his price is still fairly low.”
If he keeps this up, De La Cruz will be in the same area as Bryse Wilson before too long.
Andres Munoz, RHP, San Diego Padres
Season Stats (AA/AAA):
This list wouldn’t be complete without including at least one bullpen arm. You know this super team the Padres are building with Manny Machado and their plethora of prospects? Well, there’s a very strong chance that Andres Munoz is going to be the closer of that team. Current closer, Kirby Yates, has pitched very well, but will be a free agent following the 2020 season, opening the door for Munoz to take over and lock down the role for years to come.
In San Antonio tonight, Andres Muñoz, 19, struck out the side on 11 pitches. He did not throw a fastball below 100 mph. Here is his final pitch, clocked at 103: pic.twitter.com/jPejKnoAhF
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) August 23, 2018
Munoz is your prototypical closer. He throws hard in the upper-90’s and often touching triple-digits with plenty of arm side life and pairs that with a hard slider in the upper 80’s. But alas, porous control often gets him into trouble as evident by his career 6.0 BB/9 in the minors. If Munoz can clean that up some, he has the stuff to become one of the top closers in baseball.
Eric Cross is all over dynasty fantasy baseball! For more great analysis and prospect rankings check out his full archive.
Photo/Video Credit: Lance Brozdowski (Feature Image & Weathers Tweet), Kiley McDaniel, Dennis Lin, Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and a contributor in the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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